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Hospital’s new patient care program allows techs to learn on the job

hshsstelizabethpctAccording to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health-care occupations is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs.

Health-care occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups but the costs of getting trained for clinical care positions may be higher than some can afford. To help solve this issue, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital developed a new program to create a bridge into the industry.

The hospital’s new Patient Care Tech program began as an opportunity for current colleagues to train on-the-job to open additional job paths within the hospital and HSHS system. It’s start-up success has led to opening up the application process to the public.

The PCT program is an eight-week paid training program that combines classroom education with hands-on clinical experience. The program consists of two classroom days every week for four weeks. Time is also spent working on a hospital unit for the first four weeks, followed by a four-week internship supported by preceptors.

Some patient care technician programs require students to pay for the program, which could be cost prohibitive to some who are working full-time already and may not have the means or time. St. Elizabeth’s program is somewhat unique because participants learn on the job and, upon successful completion of the program objectives, have a position at the hospital.

“The initial idea was to have a mechanism to provide our internal colleagues, who already had the heart and compassion for clinical care, with on-the-job training to provide the next steps towards a fulfilling career in hands-on patient care as a patient care tech,” said Regina Peterson, DNP, RN, division director of Clinical Education and Professional Development, SID Float Pool and SID RN Residency.

The first cohort of the PCT program started in January and the students celebrated their transition ceremony, a form of a graduation for the participants, on March 19, to celebrate the completion of the program.

“If it wasn’t for the PCT program, I would not be here with you today,” said Cailey Smotts at the transition ceremony. A member of the first PCT cohort, Smotts worked in many health-related fields including in a pharmacy, a physical therapy clinic, as a medic in the army and currently as an EMT but her previous experiences, though valuable, didn’t translate into the necessary certification to get hired as a clinical nurse assistant or other patient care positions.

“The first cohort was composed of beautiful people from many different backgrounds who came together to build a small family,” Smotts said. “St. Elizabeth’s Hospital made it apparent to us quickly that we were not part of something ordinary or small, but rather we were joining a family that had a larger mission.”

Program facilitator Lleyna Gorka, RN, BSN, shared that many of the first cohort participants had the passion for caring and this gave them the opportunity to bring their joy and mission-driven personality to a higher level of care. Members included current employees from Environmental Services, Food and Nutrition Services and other clinical support departments within the hospital.

“It’s a paid opportunity to learn,” said Gorka. “This program provides experiences, tools and onsite training to enhance skills students may have gathered from past positions and give them added support to grow in the clinical care field. I’m truly proud of the first group and very excited to continue to grow the program.”

“With St. Elizabeth’s PCT program, we are instilling not only the clinical skills but the culture and tradition that comes with the long history of service at St. Elizabeth’s,” she added.

The second cohort will start in April 2019. Applications are currently being accepted for the next cohort of the PCT program and are available online at To learn more about the program email Gorka at or call (618) 234-2120, ext. 12548.

PHOTO: Lleyna Gorka, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s Patient Care Tech program facilitator, left, presents Cailey Smotts her certificate of completion for the training program.

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